First impressions last. That’s why, when it comes to marketing yourself through a website, your homepage will have to be love at first sight.
And while the other pages of your website deserve equal attention, they aren’t necessarily of equal importance. A homepage, by its very nature, will typically have a unique set of design goals, content objectives, and mood in order to catch and sustain the attention of visitors.
Here’s a list of seven best practices for a more effective homepage:
- Communicate concisely who you are, what you do, and what your site is for. Don’t leave people in the dark – show them the light, and show them the light in the first five seconds upon arrival. Your company’s name is Charlie’s Tees, and you sell funny shirts and vintage shirts, and your online store is the source of sartorial awesomeness. See? Concise and clear. Do that and you’re off to a good start. (Bonus tip: Make sure that these important details are above the fold – the part of the page that appears before you scroll down. Don’t waste your visitors’ precious seconds!)
- Show your address. We don’t mean your URL; we mean the actual physical location – or locations – where you do business. A simple sidebar with this information should do the trick (“Serving happy flip-flop lovers in Chicago!” – plus a phone number with a local area code. Not only does this demographically and geographically prequalify your customers; it also promotes best local SEO/local search practice.
- Don’t bore repeat visitors. We know we’re advising you to put your essential brand and business info, but make sure repeat visitors will also have something to look forward to on your homepage. Check out Tumblr: its home page for first-time visitors is dynamically different from those who are already logged in.
- Speed it up. Don’t let your homepage load forever. Site speed is important. Hey, that’s what Google says. So make sure you improve the speed at which your homepage loads – that way, you’ll make lots of friends from human visitors and search engine robots.
- What’s new? Show it to visitors. Don’t just pepper your homepage with mere text links; suggest places to visit by way of buttons here and there. You can also add videos, photo slideshows, social media widgets (“Follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook”), newsletter subscription buttons, and rich multimedia content. Or encourage them to read your blog, where the latest information about you and your company show up as the most recent posts.
- Add your Call to Action – and place it prominently. What do you want your visitors to do once they arrive at your homepage? Whether it’s to check out your product catalog, or comment on your posts, or fill out a form/quotation request, the call to action should be placed prominently on the homepage, also above the fold. The top left- or right-hand corner is typically one of the best places to plant this message.
- Add touches of branding. While it’s advisable to resist confusing design elements like flashy intros and background music, you’re more than free to make your homepage truly your own. Branding elements like your logo, tagline, company colors are a great way of distinguishing yourself from your competitors’ homepages.
- Ensure consistent, easy navigation. Your homepage should act as a portal to the rest of your site. If, for example, you have five or six links on the header or footer of your homepage – like About Us, Portfolio, Testimonials, Blog, among many others – then make sure that they stay there on the rest of the pages’ headers or footers. Consistency and ease-of-use are the keys when it comes to site-wide navigation.